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The Life of Romanian Poet Mihai Eminescu

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An Arts, Literature and History Buff, Humanities Major, Published Indie Writer, Avid Photographer, and World Foodie & Travel Enthusiast

To the Romanian people, exceptional is the word that is no secret when speaking of Mihai Eminescu. The revered man remains a cultural icon, a poet, novelist, and journalist celebrated for his prolific literary legacy.

Mihai was born on January 15th, 1850. He spent his childhood years growing up in Western Moldavia until he graduated from highschool in 1866.

He published his very first poem in the Familia literary magazine: “If I Were to Have,” the first of many poems in which gave rise to his famed nom de plume.

As an active member of the Romanian literary society, he also worked as an editor and journalist for the Time newspaper, a director of Central University Library of Lași, a substitute teacher, and school inspector. In that time, he juggled these positions along with his writing career until he fell ill in 1883.

 Mihai Eminescu: Portrait by Jan Tomas circa 1869

Mihai Eminescu: Portrait by Jan Tomas circa 1869

Famed Literary Achievements

Romanian historian, Nicolae Lorga considered Mihai Eminescu as one of the most significant literary figures in Romanian history, dubbing him ‘the Godfather of the Romanian language,’ given this one can see the revered homage fits considering his long list of literary feats in Romanticism.

Much of Eminescu’s work is available in the Romanian language. However, there are collections of his best works translated into English such as Cristian Butnariu’s Eternal Moments.

Poems

  • Mai am un singur dor (I Have Yet One Desire) 1883
  • Odă (în metru antic) (Ode (in Ancient Meter) 1883
  • Și dacă (And if…) 1883
  • Doina (Romanian song) 1884
  • Dorința (Desire) 1884
  • Epigonii (Epigones) 1884
  • Floare albastră (Blue Flower)
  • Rămii (Oh, Linger On) 1884
  • Sara pe deal (Evening on the Hill) 1885
  • Lacul (The Lake) 1876
  • La Steaua (At Star) 1886
  • Scrisori (Letters or “Epistles-Satires”)

Prose

  • Cezara (Caesara)
  • Făt-Frumos din lacrimă (The Teardrop Prince)
  • Geniu pustiu (Empty Genius)
  • Sărmanul Dionis (Wretched Dionis)


Later Years in Life

In his later years, Mihai suffered from a mental ailment. When considering the words of literary critic Titu Maiorescu, his description of erratic mood swings seems to confirm a medical diagnosis of a bipolar disorder, not uncommon among famous artists, musicians, poets and writers throughout history. Though his chaos crippled his personal life, as with any inspired artist, his emotional senses seem to have helped his writing career.

Romanian writer Ion Luca Caragiale described these mood swings as cycles that lasted for hours, days, weeks, and even months, and often triggered anxiety because of political affiliation, or his obsession with fellow poet, Veronic Micle who remained trapped in an oppressed marriage.

 Portrait of Mihai Eminescu (1850 - 1889) - photograph by Franz Duschek, Bucharest, 1880

Portrait of Mihai Eminescu (1850 - 1889) - photograph by Franz Duschek, Bucharest, 1880

A Love/Hate Relationship

"You must know, Veronica, that as much as I love you, I sometimes hate you; I hate you without a reason, without a word, only because I imagine you laughing with someone else, and your laughter doesn’t mean to him what it means to me and I feel I grow mad at the thought of somebody else touching you, when your body is exclusively and without impartasion to anyone. I sometimes hate you because I know you own all these allures that you charmed me with, I hate you when I suspect you might give away my fortune, my only fortune. I could only be happy beside you if we were far away from all the other people, somewhere, so that I didn’t have to show you to anybody and I could be relaxed only if I could keep you locked up in a bird house in which only I could enter."

~ Mihai Eminescu

Nestor Heck - Veronica Micle (1850-1889), Iaşi, owner: National Library of Romania.

Nestor Heck - Veronica Micle (1850-1889), Iaşi, owner: National Library of Romania.

As Fate Would Have It

Aside from his diagnosis of bipolar disorder, the poet also suffered from an ever-prevalent disease of the day, venereal disease. The condition overtook him in 1883 and interned at a hospital. Syphilis took its toll and six years later, Eminescu died in a sanitorium.

Doctors who inspected his body suggested the famed poet died from the long-term use of mercury, and not at all uncommon for those who tried to cure themselves of the effects of syphilis in that time.

Upon the death of Mihai Eminescu in 1889, two months later, Veronica Micle took her own life by consuming a lethal dose of arsenic poisoning. The tragedy would forever mark the two artist lovers as tortured souls.

Statue of Mihai Eminescu at Putna Monastery, Putna, Romania

Statue of Mihai Eminescu at Putna Monastery, Putna, Romania

A Writer’s Reflection

After reading a few of Eminescu’s translated poems, I found his verse rich with words of melancholy. Given his mental condition, perhaps his unbalance made him feel more of any emotion in that moment of conception. Though flawed with human delicacy, it does not surprise me in the least that the Romanian people haled Eminescu as a genius in his day. His effort to embrace the Romantic movement without repentance made him immortal in their eyes, and to this day he remains a relevant piece of Romanian history.

Cited Sources & Works

  • Kurt W. Treptow “Poems & Prose of Mihai Eminescu” Center for Romanian Studies (May 1, 2000)
  • The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. (Jul 20, 1998) Mihail Eminescu Romanian Poet
  • The Team of Students and Teachers from Secondary School No. 1 Luduş, Romania. (2009) Nicolae Lorga
  • Emelia Stere: Central Europe Review (09 October, 2000)

© 2019 ziyena

Comments

Liz Westwood from UK on May 27, 2019:

This is an interesting and well-written biography. Sad that his life was quite short.